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As you can tell I have put off and put off this final post.  I felt as long as I left something hanging, I was still living in the present regarding my trip and not the past. Now that I … Continue reading

Matisse in Nice

OK…Have ya missed me? I have not been able to post. The internet in my room at Le2 is super spotty. If I go out in the hall, stand on 1 leg by the window, it seems to connect, but when I turn to go back in the room….I lose it again.

So let’s catch up….

Another item on my list while in Vence was to visit the Matisse Museum in Nice. The tourist office had given me a flyer highlighting the museum.

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In reading it last evening, accompanied by a glass of the area’s Provence Rose, I learned it was closed on Tuesdays. So Monday was my only choice…that makes it easy.

While I enjoyed my typical French breakfast,

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I created a couple of “flash cards” to aid me in my travels.

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That ought to about do it right?

I knew there were 2 buses that would take me into Nice. One, the 400, I rode to Vence when I arrived. The other, the 94, I believe, was supposedly a more direct bus into Nice. I chose that one.

When I made it to the bus circle in the new area of Vence, the 94 was there and waiting. Perfect.
I boarded and told the driver I wanted to go to the Musee Matisse…..I get a stare I am all too familiar with….but this time it is in French….
I repeat….nothing….so I whip out my iphone flashcard….still nullite…
I show him the map illustration in the Matisse flyer and say, “Nice”….
“Ah…oui, oui…Nice”
But this is not said in a friendly way, this is said like, “sure lady, whatever, move on and sit.”
Loud and Clear….so I did….but as customary, I sit CLOSE to the driver….
My first choice in seats, a bit behind the entry door but the first to the driver’s right was taken….by a young girl who seemed to be “involved” with the driver. So I had to take my 2nd choice, directly behind the driver….and the barrier behind his seat.

We are on our way as I follow the scheduled stops on my bus route/schedule handout.
These are VERY helpful….I suggest grabbing any and all while visiting a city. HOWEVER, the stop the Matisse flyer said to get off at was not on the list.
We pass through Cagne Sur Mer….my old stomp’n grounds, so I know Nice is coming up….
Long bus ride short, I could not get any help from the driver, his girlfriend (they were in some sort of tiff… The ENTIRE drive, he would look back at here….while driving….whisper….look apologetically, and she in return would whisper…..and look down.
Give me Italians that yell everything and ya know where you stand!!
At one point, feeling a bit desperate, I got her attention and asked, “Do you speak ANY english?”
I received a curt “No” with nullite eye contact….she wouldn’t even entertain the international pointing and gesturing….
ANYWAY, an hour later, we are at a stop with lots of other buses. I notice everyone is getting off here. I reluctantly try the driver one more time, showing him, once again, the map in the flyer. I get a parting point and “tourist office”. I exit sharing my best French glare….. (later I spotted the two under a tree making out).

OK…time to access….I do not want to turn on my phone. ( that thing has made me nervous the entire trip…next trip I will definitely get an Italian SIM card put in upon arrival…that way you pay up front and when you use it up….you can pay more…. )
I have zero idea where I am. I have zero idea where the musee is located in reference to where I am….so I walk a bit, looking for the allege “tourist office” always keeping the location of the “bus circle” in the front of my mind….
I see no tourist office…so my last resort is a taxi…..
As you know by now, I hate paying for this, but it is the only means I can find to my end.
I get in the air conditioned Mercedes and say, “Musee Matisse s’il vous plaît” and we are quickly on our way.

The good news is I COULD NOT have walked to it, it was a bit of a drive up from the main part of the city.

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I am excited about this visit for a couple of reasons. Number one, I love Matisse. Number two, I love visiting WHERE an artist worked and Number three, from the flyer, I learned that there is a special exhibit now through September celebrating the 50th year of the museum….again, perfect timing. There will be pieces on loan from other museums that are not part of the housed collection.

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I need to tell you this before “we” enter…once again there are no photographs allowed inside the musee, so you will just have to take my word about some things…

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Matisse Museum presents the exhibition “Matisse. The Music at Work”. The exhibition is divided into two parts; The Silence of Music and The Sound of Colour.

As I have mentioned, I have always admired Matisse’s use of line. Much like Picasso, his friendly rival, Matisse’s use of line looks fluid, effortless. During this exhibit and reading his words, I am encouraged to learn that this “ease” came with study and practice.
In one narrative, Matisse likens drawing with a “crayon” to that of playing the violin with a bow. He explains that the smallest distraction during the execution of a line can involuntarily bring with it slight pressing and can influence a line adversely much like that of the wrong pressure on the bow brings an off note to the music.

“Accuracy, clarity, harmony- the movement in which the hand sings”. Henri Matisse

Also being able to see his work close up, noticing the draftsman like marks on a piece that you once felt were pure inspiration.

At one point in his life, Matisse took up playing the violin seriously. When his wife inquired as to why, Matisse shared that he had a fear of going blind. He explained that a blind man must give up painting but not music. I found this touching.

One of my favorite displays was a collection of scraps in the middle of a room. Each individual piece of cut out, painted paper was mounted in the center of a large piece of white paper and set in a gold frame. These frames were then hung on kind of a “poster” display mounting…where you could flip through each one. I loved seeing these discarded pieces. The pin holes, and in some the pins, were still evident where Matisse would pin to a wall to consider their placement in his overall design. Can you imagine just owning this small treasure? Something he had held, used his large scissors to create those beautiful organic shapes and then thought…”No, not this one”.

I love that his family kept them and that they want the viewer to understand his process….and my students wonder why I never want their “scraps” thrown away….

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Blue Nude was a popular piece my students chose to replicate in their painted paper collages. Seeing it in person, with its imperfect cuts, overlapping shapes and pencil marks made me understand the process better.

Matisse’s use of line, color and pattern earn him a special place in my heart. I am thrilled to have visited the town that meant so much to him.

“I decided never to leave Nice, and remained there nearly my entire existence.” Henri Matisse

After I left the museum, I wanted to visit Matisse’s tomb. I was finding entry to the cemetery difficult, there was construction going on around it with tarps and scaffolding concealing the entrance.
I did however see an open gate, so I went to it. It was being blocked by a van, its doors open by the gardeners that were working inside. I entered tentatively. The woman working inside was no help when I asked, “Matisse’s Tomb?”

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I walked through the pictured area, not seeing what I thought I was looking for. Each time I would follow a short walkway, it would dead-end. Quickly I decided to leave before the gardener closed the gate. Spending the night locked in here did not give me a warm feeling.

Finding a bus back to the center of town proved difficult as well. The one I did find, parked close to the museum, was in the driver’s words “caput”. As I walked considering my options, one of those double decker buses stopped near. You know the type….the ones “tourist” ride while listening to commentary….
This is usually NOT an option to me, but remembering how difficult getting to the museum proved, I stuck my head in and asked the driver, “Do you speak english.” “Yeah, sometimes,”he said with a drawl…. At this point, I welcomed an english speaking smart A….

He told me that for 20euro I could ride the bus and get off at the bus center when I wanted. He did advise me that he thought it was not a very good deal thought. However, the taxi to the museum cost the same and this guy I could communicate with, so I hopped on.

At the center of Nice, I got off and walked around a bit..

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At night, the “people” on top of those poles illuminate in different colors.

To me Nice is a busy, tourist packed town. I walked a little along the promenade that defines the “French Rivera”…… I’ll take Monterosso….

Back at the bus circle, I hopped on the 400 and headed back to Vence.
When I arrived, hungry, I found a sidewalk bistro that offered crepes.

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With only one day left, I enjoyed an evening stroll then went back to the room to research and read.

Monsieur Matisse

So why Vence? Why come to France after a month plus in Italy?
Let’s go back to the planning stage(s) again.

By January 2013, the outline of the trip was pretty much nailed down and it was tutta Italia.
And then inspiration came from someone else. Henri Matisse.
Early in the fall semester, we began studying Henri Matisse in Art III.
Matisse had long been a favorite of mine.

I was visiting Washington D.C. with Mom and Dad in, I will guess and say, 1986? One day while Daddy attended a no doubt thrilling auditing conference, Mom and I sought refuge from the oppressive heat in the National Gallery.
I have a strong memory of seeing a Matisse for what I remember as the first time. You would think I would remember the exact painting, although I think it was “Still Life with Woman Sleeping”, I cannot be certain.
What I do remember are the colors, the unmistakable use of black line simply, yet fluidly rendered to create the feminine form. I remember being able to see the cloth of the canvas where the paint on the brush had run thin. I remember staring at his signature.
I remember the mood; the mood in the painting and the mood it evoked.
I did not feel sad or melancholy as I do when in the presence of a Van Gogh. When I looked at a Matisse, I felt happy, content. At that moment, Matisse leap-frogged Monet as one of my favorite artists. (Monet is no longer even in the top few, although I love and admire his work.)

I was excited to introduce my students to Monsieur Matisse. In preparation for this introduction, I viewed a documentary, A Model for Matisse. The film highlights a little known and tender relationship between Henri Matisse and a Dominican nun, Sister Jacque-Marie.

“The unlikely pair worked together from conception to completion of Matisse’s tour de force, the Chapelle du Rosaire (Chapel of the Rosary) in the French village of Vence” (Carnegie Mellon News)

After I viewed this, I felt as if I had spent an evening with Grandma Guidry. Sister Jacque-Marie reminded me so much of her. I bought the dvd, shared it with my students and mom and dad.

I was aware of the chapel of course, but the film was the inspiration for my visit to Vence.

So fast forward to Sunday morning. Last night, I was reading a bit about the area, noted the limited hours of the chapelle for tours but also noticed mass on Sundays at 10:00 am.
I did not want to get my hopes up, but I thought how wonderful that would be.
I assumed it would be a short bus ride over to the chapelle, having spied it on the opposite hill last night. But at breakfast, I was told it was a short 15 minute walk (he later added 15, 30 an hour? to his declaration).
I like the idea of walking. I feel more in control that way.

As I followed my hand drawn map, stopped every once in a while for support. There was one woman that actually looked at my information and tried to listen to me. After a moment she said, “Aaaahhhh Matisse.” It was as if she knew him….listening to her say his name was beautiful. She continued on in French, but smiled and nodded making me feel I was heading in the correct direction.

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While I walked, I still had no idea regarding the protocol of attending mass….I continued to keep my hopes at bay. But RIGHT when I arrived, a woman came from the chapelle, unlocked the gate and welcomed the few waiting in….I just followed.

Photographs in the chapelle are strictly forbidden…that means that the people that just entered a church, made the Sign of the Cross and prayed and prayed….disregarded that commandment…..however, I could not bring myself to do so in the chapelle proper. I took a couple of photos before entering, in the foyer, and one of my feet as I stood. The other photos I have are poor ones from the internet, but I wanted you to be a little familiar if you were not.

Entering, I was prepared for the stark design and lighting. What I was not prepared for was the size of the chapelle. It it tiny! I would say it is a bit larger than our living room and kitchen put together, a bit wider, but that is it.

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20130722-202422.jpg In the foyer.

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The tile walls with Matisse’s drawings of Mary and Jesus and on the back wall, the Stations of the Cross simply drawn in his unmistakable style.

20130722-202702.jpg The alter and tabernacle with the sun from the stained glass shining in.

20130722-202905.jpg Me in awe.

I was struck by the appropriateness of ending my visit of cathedrals and attendance at several masses in stunning, grand surroundings at this simple, beautiful chapelle. From Papa Francesco to this very personable French priest. It made me smile.

It was still early, about 9:40. I secured a spot and then walked back to the door of the confessional. I think of all the aspects of the chapelle, the door is my favorite. So simple, patterned of course and white.
As the chapelle began to fill, an older man walked through greeting everyone. He would shake hands, ask where they were from (in french) and then speak briefly to them, myself included. When we spoke, he said, “oohhh la la people from United States, Spain, England, France….oooohhhh la la”. As I suspected it was the priest.

This was a wonderful way to end my trip. The surroundings, the intimacy…
And if that was not enough…..He made sure I heard the message. They passed out the readings in each language needed.

Martha, Martha,
you worry and fret about so many things,
and yet few are needed, indeed only one.”
(Luke 10:41-42a)

Did He choose this for me!!??!!

As the mass began, I could tell although I could not understand a word, this man was speaking to his parish….in such a small, intimate setting, he would speak, ask questions (even thought EVERYTHING in French sounds like a question to me) and people in the church would answer…there was interaction going on…it was wonderful. He would laugh, they would laugh. He would ask, they would respond. He would ponder, they would nod their heads….

EVERY aspect of the chapelle was a collaborative effort between Matisse and Sister Jacque-Marie, including this cross, the chalice and candle sticks on the altar and the vestments.

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Even if you are not into Matisse and art, I recommend seeing “A Model for Matisse”. I am happy to lend you my copy or you can rent it on Netflix.

After mass, I returned to the historic center of Vence, walked around a bit (again, A LOT of things are closed on Sundays) and decided to “visit” another artist, Marc Chagall. I do not know much at all about Chagall, but everything I have seen on his personality point to a very happy, playful man.

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And when there is a special exhibit in your own “backyard” why not right?

The rest of the day did not bring much. I did a bit of research regarding my plans for tomorrow, followed another one of Nicolai’s restaurant recommendations

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Walked home

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Got in bed with a new good book and listened to the church bells ring all night (that is not a bad thing).